Learn why it’s important to make your health a priority instead of waiting too long.
I knew I waited too long when I saw the look on my husband’s face, who was urging me to hurry so we could go to the emergency room.
I knew I waited too long when I thought about how I might never see my kids again.
I knew I waited too long when the ER doctors weren’t sure where to start or which tests to run, because I had too many symptoms.
I knew I waited too long when my own doctor, who has been my doctor since I was a child, didn’t have me listed as a patient since I hadn’t been there for myself in over four years.
I waited way too long to make my health a priority.
Do you find yourself in the same place as me? Why do we do this to ourselves?
Moms, we are notorious for waiting too long to make ourselves a priority. We often put our kids, spouse, home, job, responsibilities, friends, extended family, and even pets before ourselves.
Yes, even Spike the bearded dragon gets bathed before I do some days.
Why? Moms tend to take the burdens of everyone and everything around them all on themselves. They rarely have time to think about themselves when they try to think about and manage so many other things on their own.
When they are feeling ill? There’s medicine for that. Exhausted? Push through the fatigue and grab another coffee. Develop a headache? Close your eyes for a quick minute and then back to work. Stressed? Have a glass of wine and camp out in the bathroom alone for a few minutes.
Many think it’s selfish to stop and take care of their health. They believe that they are taking away time from other important matters if they take a Mom timeout.
But, let me tell you something, and it’s something I want you to remember:
It’s Not Selfish to Make Your Health a Priority
Did you read that? Read it again. It’s not selfish. In fact, it’s being responsible. Your health and wellness is just as important if not more important than everything else.
When you take care of yourself, not only does it make you feel so much better physically and emotionally, it also helps you to be even more capable to take care of everything else that’s on your plate.When you take care of yourself, not only does it make you feel so much better physically and emotionally, it also helps you to be even more capable to take care of everything else that's on your plate.Click To Tweet
And that includes being a better mom.
It’s like the airplane metaphor: “Put your oxygen mask on first.” If you’re running out of air, how can you help others?
If you find out that you have a major illness after ignoring the symptoms for too long, how will you be there for your family?
Harsh reality to think about. I’m sorry, but I had to face this reality because I waited too long to worry about my own health.
Importance of Self Care for Mothers
Moms, it’s so important to make your health a priority and take care of yourself. Ignoring how you feel or ignoring any symptoms you may have will not only make you feel ill, but you’ll also feel more tired and stressed out, have less energy, and feel generally unhappy.
If you’re feeling like that, chances are it’s going to affect how you are able to live, work, and even play.
For example, as a stay at home mom, when I’m not feeling right, I find it very difficult to get things done around the house, leading to everything just piling up. When I see things piling up, it makes me feel even worse.
And let’s not forget how it affects my kids. When I’m not feeling right but I’m not taking care of myself, I’m not exactly the mom of the year. I don’t have the energy to keep up with them, and often snap at them when they get out of hand.
If we moms take the time to take care of ourselves, our health, and our well-being on a regular basis, we will feel more energy, we’ll feel happier, and healthier, and we’ll be able to be the best moms we can be.
How to Be a Healthy Mom
Recognize that you are worth it and your health needs to be a priority.
Yes, you feel a responsibility to take care of the needs of the family, but you too are worth keeping healthy. It’s not only for their sake; it’s for your sake. It’s for your health and your happiness.
Don’t feel ashamed.
Sometimes we feel ashamed when something is wrong with us. We will put aside any illness, physical or mental, because we don’t want others to know about it and think less of us.
It can be difficult, but being honest about physical and mental illness can help us get the help we need at the right time.
Visit your primary care doctor regularly.
This is a step that I skipped. It’s important to visit your primary care doctor on a regular basis, not just when you’re deathly ill. You and your doctor will be able to track your health and perhaps detect problems before they become huge problems.
Of course, ‘regular basis’ might mean something different to everyone. Once a year could be enough, but speak with your doctor about what would be best for you.
Visit your gynecologist regularly.
Ladies, I know it’s not the most fun thing in the world (not even close), but it’s important to visit your gynecologist regularly too. She or he is more in tune with your female reproductive system than your primary care doctor, and again, you’ll be able to track your health and any changes in those areas to prevent small problems from becoming big problems.
Visit your dentist regularly.
Believe it or not, your dental health is very important. Your dentist will not only clean your teeth or fill cavities, he or she will check your mouth for cancer, make sure you don’t have the signs of gingivitis, check the lymph nodes around your head and neck for issues, and be on the lookout for any other symptoms which may indicate another health issue.
Know the symptoms of common diseases and illnesses for women.
Did you know that breast cancer is not the number one health risk for women? While breast cancer (or cancer in general) is certainly in the top three, heart disease is more likely to be the number one health risk for women. Following close behind are strokes and all kinds of cancer.
While heart disease is a major health risk for women, it is often overlooked since the symptoms women have don’t always match those of men.
When we think of a heart attack, we think of the typical symptoms, like:
- squeezing chest pain,
- shortness of breath,
- pain that radiates from the neck and shoulders to the arms,
- sudden dizziness
But the symptoms of a heart attack can be slightly different:
- indigestion or gas pain
- unexplained weakness or fatigue
- sense that something bad is going to happen
- discomfort between shoulder blades
As these symptoms seem to be mild or from another illness, many women either ignore the symptoms or sometimes even doctors miss the symptoms of a heart attack in women.
The same can be said of strokes and a number of other illnesses. For some reason, women have different symptoms than men, and tend not to be treated as quickly.
This is a good read: 8 Common Health Issues Every Woman Should Know
Don’t ignore symptoms.
Feeling like something just isn’t right? Don’t ignore the symptoms! Get checked out as soon as possible.
If you continue to feel this way after a doctor tells you nothing is wrong, it’s time to get a second opinion.
Eat a healthy diet.
I know we all cringe at the mere mention of the word ‘diet’, but here I mean to try to eat healthy foods in the right portions whenever possible.
Does that mean you can’t have pizza or indulge in fast food? Of course not! Having those things every once in a while is not going to hurt, provided that you have a healthy diet otherwise.
For me, it’s about not eating processed foods as much and managing my portions. I have even started using my kids Re-Play plates to portion my dinners.
This I cannot stress enough. It’s so important for your health to stay hydrated. I mean, think about it: 50%-65% of your body is made up of water!
When you’re dehydrated, you can:
- have dry skin
- breathe rapidly
- develop headaches
- have a lack of energy
- be irritable
- have a rapid heartbeat
- and more.
Do you really want to feel all of those symptoms? Not me!
Most healthy people can drink eight 8 oz glasses of water a day and stay hydrated. That amounts to 64 oz a water a day, but I have seen recommendations to drink more based on their body weight.
Ideally, you can drink the recommended amount, but then drink more water as you feel thirsty.
What does it mean to exercise? Do you need to run for miles or stay at the gym for hours?
Exercise can be as simple as going for a walk or a hike, chasing your kids around the yard, cleaning your house…basically, it’s anything that gets you up and moving several times a day!
And if you prefer running or going to the gym or even a great workout DVD/streaming video, go for it!
The more you exercise on a regular basis, the better you’ll sleep, feel energized, improve your mood, fight against diseases and conditions, control your weight, and more.
Get enough sleep.
I know this one can be hard for moms, especially when you have kiddos waking you up in the middle of the night for a variety of reasons. (Me! Me! My 8 year old gets up at least once a night, and has since she was born!)
While you might not be able to stop the kiddos from waking you up, you can do all you can to get some quality sleep, including:
- getting some exercise in during the day, even if it’s just a brisk walk around the block
- avoiding caffeine after 4 pm
- shutting down your electronics about 30 minutes before bed
- not having a lot to drink before bed
- keeping the thermostat at a comfortable temperature at night, between 60-67 degrees F
- closing the blackout curtains in your room
- keeping the lights dim as you get ready for bed
- practicing some deep breathing
- turning on your white noise machine
- and investing in a high quality mattress.
Seek help when you need it.
Don’t try to do it all. It is perfectly acceptable to ask for help! There’s no need to feel guilty that you can’t do it all.
You shouldn’t have to do it all. That’s what family and friends are for: to help each other with the burdens of life.
Take occasional time outs.
When is the last time you did something by yourself for yourself? When is the last time you spent time with your spouse or friends sans kids?
Take a Mom time out to allow you to find a piece of yourself again. This way, the ‘Mom’ in you feels refreshed and ready to take on your parenting challenges again.
What Happened to Me When I Didn’t Make My Health a Priority
Wondering what happened to me?
In the middle of Summer of 2018, I started to feel heart palpitations. I didn’t feel anything else at the time, so I attributed them to the over-the-counter sinus medicines I was taking for sinus pressure and headaches.
Right then I should have spoken to my family doctor since there’s a family history of heart disease, but I still ignored it.Don't ignore your symptoms! If you feel something is wrong, seek medical help. Click To Tweet
A few weeks later, my neck, left shoulder, and left arm started bothering me. My neck would be sore and stiff, and I had pain radiating down my left shoulder into my left arm. I would wake up in the middle of the night in pain, unable to move my neck. Some mornings I would wake up in debilitating pain with a migraine on top of it.
Again, something I ignored. I already knew I had mild arthritis in my neck, something that was discovered when I was in a car accident back in 2009. I’m prone to migraines, with a number of different triggers, one of them being not sleeping well.
During all that time, I also had chronic ear pain and vertigo from time to time. The ear pain would come and go, but it didn’t seem severe enough to warrant a doctor’s visit.
It wasn’t until all of my symptoms combined at the end of October 2018 that I knew something was really wrong.
I was home alone with my toddler and my nephew when I all of a sudden felt rapid heart beats, heat palpitations, lightheaded, dizzy, nauseous, ear pain, a headache, pain radiating from my neck to my arm,a weird feeling in my jaw, and slight left chest discomfort.
I thought I was about to have a heart attack. I was only 35.Don't let this happen to you. Make your health a priority starting NOW. Click To Tweet
I immediately called my husband, who rushed home from work (only 5 minutes away). I was casually walking around the house, getting the two kids ready to go.
His face. I’ll never forget it.
For a guy who is normally calm and collect in situations like these, he was nervous. He was anxious. He took over getting the kids ready and ushered me out the door.
Long story short:
I did not have a heart attack. Phew.
At the ER and subsequent doctors visits, my blood pressure was elevated. That is odd because historically (at all of my OB/GYN visits that I did have annually and during all of my pregnancies) I usually have low blood pressure.
After wearing a holter monitor and having a stress test, doctor’s discovered that I have mild mitral regurgitation and mild tricuspid regurgitation. Both have to do with leaky valves in the heart. They are both actually very common and could be contributing to the heart palpitations I have been feeling.
An x-ray was also taken of my neck to compare its condition to how it was back in 2009. It was discovered that the arthritis in my neck did get a tad worse, and some of the space between discs have narrowed.
After all of the appointments and testing, they’re still not quite sure what happened that day, but they are certain my heart is healthy at least. (Phew!)
It was still all very scary, and I hope to never have to go through that again!
My Plan to Make My Health a Priority
Until my next doctor visit, I’m making a few lifestyle changes that I know are absolutely necessary.
Since having my fourth baby, I haven’t really completely lost my baby weight or any weight I put on before the baby when I had my miscarriage (I’m an emotional eater).
Priority #1: Get back to a healthy weight.
The last few times I lost weight, in between kids, I used Diet-to-Go, Nutrisystem, and good ol’ fashioned watching what I ate. This time around I’m sticking with the watching what I eat plus less carbs.
It helps that my husband is going to join me in getting back to a healthy weight too!
Priority #2: Regularly visit the doctor(s).
After my primary care doctor helps me to figure out what’s going on, I’m going to make it a habit to schedule yearly visits.
I already visit the dentist every six months, so check!
I also found a new gynocologist since mine (who I LOVED) retired last year.
Priority #3: Don’t Ignore the symptoms.
Ignoring my symptoms for too long was probably my biggest mistake. Lesson learned!
How Can You Make Your Health a Priority?
I almost waited too long to make my health a priority. Don’t make the same mistake I did!
How can you work on making your health a priority? Do you have any stories to share? Let’s have a discussion in the comments below!